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Fire pushes west, prompting more evacuations and a rescue attempt [Updated]

151689.ME.0831.Fire2.WJS

The Station fire marched west today, prompting new evacuations in the Sunland-Tujunga area as authorities moved to rescue five people who refused to evacuate in the Gold Canyon area.

Officials said a Los Angeles County sheriff's helicopter was going to try to find the residents, who live off Little Tujunga Road.

Firemap[Updated at 1:24 p.m.: Officials said the five people initially refused to leave their homes when the evacuation order was issued. But since then, firefighters have set back fires in the area, and the people have now asked to be rescued. The Sheriff's Department considered sending a helicopter but was told by fire officials that conditions were not safe. Spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department is now monitoring conditions and trying to figure out how to get to them.

[Updated at 1:50 p.m.: Sixty-five firefighters withdrew from Chilao Flats near the Chilao ranger station. "The intensity of the fire was too strong," said L.A. County Fire Capt. Henry Rodriguez. "They were pulled off the lines and drove away in their vehicles. They're safe and all OK." ]

The new evacuation area covered 300 homes and was bounded by Apperson Street, Sevenhills Drive and  Glory Avenue. The western flank of the Station fire, which has destroyed at least 21 homes and killed two firefighters, was burning within a few miles of Santa Clarita and toward Sylmar.

On the eastern flank, crews battling the Station fire believe that it's only a matter of time before the deadly blaze hits Mt. Wilson, but officials are hopeful that frantic work by hand crews and aircraft dropping flame retardant will protect the communications centers there.

"There is a good chance the fire will hit Mt. Wilson today," said Ray Dombroski, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. "The fire is currently on two sides of Mt. Wilson, about one-half mile to the north and about one mile southwest."

All firefighters were taken off the mountain earlier this morning, he said. Mt. Wilson Road, a narrow, winding two-lane road, has been closed since 6 a.m. Dombroski said it is too dangerous to have firefighters near the communication towers and the observatory complex.

Firefighters plan to use fixed-wing aircraft to drop fire retardant on the mountain, he said.

Inspector Edward Osorio of the Los Angeles County Fire Department estimated property damage from the fire at $7,671,000 and rising.

The fire is expected to move in a northeasterly direction, and officials are putting significant resources on the northern edge of the fire near Acton.

Officials said the goal for today is to keep the fire west of California 39 and Angeles Crest Highway; south of California 14, Pearblossom Highway and California 138; east of Interstate 5; and north of the foothill communities along the Angeles National Forest border.

The Station fire doubled in size to 85,000 acres overnight and destroyed more structures.

"That fire burned just like it was daytime. Usually you get recovery because humidity goes up at night, which slows the fire down and you're able to construct more line around the fire," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy. "But last night that wasn't the case."

The exact number of homes consumed by the Station fire remains unclear, but officials said several homes south of Acton were lost last night and this morning. Earlier, 21 homes in the Tujunga Canyon area were lost, but officials expect that number to rise.

More neighborhoods were evacuated overnight as the fire pushed in three directions.

"We are making progress, but it is very slow and very dangerous," incident commander Mike Dietrich of the U.S. Forest Service said at a news conference this morning. "We have to wait for the fire to come to us." 

At the bottom of Mt. Wilson Road early this morning, firefighters bedded down in the ash-flecked open air, the forest pitch black except for the flames lighting ridgelines in the near distance. The head of the fire appeared to be across a broad and deep canyon from the Mt. Wilson compound. 

Smaller flare-ups could be seen closer to the thicket of communications towers alongside the Mt. Wilson observatory, where five engine crews were posted overnight. 

The blaze already had raced up to the winding stretch of Angeles Crest Highway that leads to Mt. Wilson Road. Road signs had melted, guardrails were burned free of their wood moorings, and the switchbacks were choked with fire-loosened boulders and scorched tree limbs.

Two firefighters were killed when they drove off the side of a treacherous road in the Mt. Gleason area, south of Acton, around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant. They were later identified as Arnaldo Quinones, 35, of Palmdale and Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County.

"This accident is tragic," Bryant said, choking up as he spoke Sunday evening. "This is a very difficult time for L.A. County Fire Department and the men and women that serve day in, day out."

The fallen firefighters were overseeing workers clearing brush at a Department of Corrections inmate campsite, Osorio said.

"It's still under investigation, but apparently the campsite got overrun by fire," he added.

More than 12,500 homes were threatened, and 6,600 were under mandatory evacuation orders Sunday night. Twenty-one residences have been destroyed, fire officials said, mostly in the Big Tujunga Canyon area.

The fire was 5% contained, officials said, and at least temporarily had eased off in foothill communities from La Cañada Flintridge to Altadena.

Much of Sunday turned into a blistering-hot waiting game for firefighters, who were trying to determine where the fire would move next. Rather than battling the flames in the sheer granite canyons of the interior, with heavy vegetation more than 40 years old in many areas, they cut fire lines near threatened neighborhoods.

"In this rugged, steep terrain, with this brush as thick as it is, we are having difficulties establishing containment lines where we can make a stand," said Capt. Mark Savage, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "This fire is still very much out of control."

Fire was burning all around Angeles Crest Highway near Mt. Wilson on Sunday evening. Earlier, hand crews cleared brush to protect the historic observatory and critical transmission towers for local television and radio stations.

The century-old observatory holds what was for decades the largest telescope in the world; it was instrumental in many of astronomy's biggest discoveries, including research that led to the "big bang" theory.

"It's a serious situation. Is the observatory going to make it? We're doing everything in our power. But I wouldn't be surprised if it is impacted by fire today or tomorrow," Bob Shindelar, operations branch director of California Incident Management Team 5, said Sunday afternoon.

More than 2,800 fire personnel from around the state have converged to battle the Station fire, along with 12 helicopters and eight air tankers.

They had hoped that the day would bring cooler, more humid air. But the red-flag fire alert was extended through today as the fire grew in all directions and sent a column of smoke high into the air -- mushrooming into a towering pyrocumulus cloud that could be seen across the Southland.

Meteorologists predicted that hot, dry conditions would continue without relent until at least Tuesday.

-- Corina Knoll at Hansen Dam

Photo: A frightened Alexis Faieta cries in the back seat as her parents April and John evacuate along Haines Canyon Ave. in Tujunga Monday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Fire300
Firemap295
Interactive map: The Station fire

Evacuee who may have lost home awaits word on animals left behind

On Mt. Wilson, 'right now the fire is boss'

Owner of popular mountain cafe fears it has gone up in flames

Firefighters creating fire breaks at Briggs Terrace in La Crescenta

Big cat animal preserve in Acton readies for fire

Firefighters try to battle back Station fire from Acton, Mt. Wilson

Air quality at hazardous levels in foothill cities

Schwarzenegger: State lost two heroes when firefighters died in Angeles National Forest

Mt. Wilson webcam: The 150-Foot Solar Tower

L.A. County Fire Department: The latest

Closures: Roads and highways | Schools

Twitter: Follow @latimescitydesk | @latimesfires

 
Comments () | Archives (26)

The TV and print news media should provide links to maps where there are evacuations in progress. I just found out that the homes in the area that are only a few blocks away from me are issuing evacuations. If people are given enough time, they will collect their valuables.
People who refuse to leave their homes and then find themselves in danger should not be rescued by fire personnel. If you refuse to follow orders you don't deserve to waste fire resources for special rescue efforts.

Yeah right Chris, " People who refuse to leave their homes and then find themselves in danger should not be rescued by fire personnel. If you refuse to follow orders you don't deserve to waste fire resources for special rescue efforts.

A human being is of value no matter, it's a life that MUST be saved regardless. That was a stupid comment you made.

I heard the big 747 jet was to be coming soon and dump fire retardant soon!

To those people who refused to leave, you made your bed now lie in it.

It's good to know that in this budget crisis and emergency situation, the taxpayers are spending money and resources to rescue and airlift a bunch of boneheads that were too stupid to follow the evacuation orders. We should make anyone who fails to follow evacuation orders pay for rescue and medical expenses out of their own pockets.

The five people who refused to evacuate should be fined and charged for the rescue effort. The time and effort to get these people out safely takes away from the firefighters who are battling the flames. They should be made to wear Dunce Caps!

SOLUTIONS FOR CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

California needs to solicit companies and individuals willing to terrace and place under agricultural development those areas which form the perimeter around the metro areas in California. In exchange for providing this service to California, those willing to assume the cultivation and care of these perimeter areas should be granted 99-year renewable and performance-based leases, access to all perimeter areas, land for the development of rain and runoff catch-basins and irrigation, cooperation from all governmental entities to include expertise, planning, permitting and conflict-resolution.

These greenbelt areas will help to relocate wildfire concentrations to remoter locations where aerial and ground-based efforts of containment will be more effectively managed without the expenditure of such high percentages of manpower and resources within and adjacent to our population centers.

Even in Southern California, where rainfall is the lowest, we allow millions of gallons of precious water to drain into the ocean with minimal attempts to catch and store it for our immediate and future use. Combinations of wind and solar power used in conjunction with terracing, catch-basins, reservoirs, irrigation and drip-irrigation technologies can turn acres of highly combustible chaparral into safe, productive and manageable orchards and cropland.

Even in the heart of the recession, green expenditures on our agricultural infrastructure in California are justified, particularly when opportunities exist for both agri-business and private individuals to develop local cropland acreage in the heart of some of the nation’s largest population centers.

Let’s encourage our government to take the necessary steps to ensure the development of our metro perimeters. This will reduce risks from wildfires, develop valuable agricultural resources and help us to beautify our California landscapes.

Mark Overt Skilbred


People who refuse to evacuate should not expect emergency personnel to rescue them. It's wrong to put the lives of the rescuers in danger just because people didn't heed the evacuation orders.

Maybe if the fire officials told those who refuse to evacuate when ordered, that they will be billed for extraordinary efforts to rescue them that will cost in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, they might consider it worthwhile to get out while it's still safe to do so. Why should our tax monies be wasted, and more importantly, firefighters' lives jeopardized, on rescuing people who refused orders to evacuate? I think if you choose to live in an area where wildfires are a risk, you should be prepared for the possibility of an evacuation order during fire season anyway.

my name is Monica Perrone.....
I am very concerned about my sister, Michelle Perrone. She lives in or around Santa Monica area. If anyone who sees thi note please let me know howthings are going around there and if she is safe there, please. I have'nt a #
nor adress fo her, unfotunately. Thnk You,

From: monicamoica45@yahoo.com
Thank you and I wish everyone in the area of the fires the best and to stay
safe!

Are you o.k. my sister, Michelle?
From: Monica at monicamoica45@yahoo.comHugs!

mandatory evacuations should be mandatory. Arrest them if they refuse to leave and fine them 10K for wasting fireman's time

As terrible as this fire is turning out to be, residents in the foothill areas are going to be in better shape come the real scary months of October and November, since this huge fire is burning off all that 50 plus year old brush that could fuel a wind driven inferno. As bad as the Minneola Fire was (1993), the entire western San Gabriel front has been facing something a hundred times worse for decades now. San Diego County's experiences with huge wind driven fires are similar to what the LA County foothills face. The silver lining in the Station Fire is the reduction of fuel going into the windy months. I hope the firefighters can get this monster knocked out before the winds come.

I stumbled across some info about protecting our cars from ash fallout. According to Meguiar's -- the largest, oldest surface care company -- when ash is mixed with water it becomes destructive to paint jobs.

Here are some automotive care tips via Megiuar's:

Keep all vehicles in a secure garage when not in use and be sure vehicle windows and sunroofs are closed to minimize any residual exposure to the ash.

If a garage is not available, the next best option is a fitted car cover to protect vehicle surfaces and keep excessive ash residue off of painted surfaces, wheels, and tires as much as possible.

If a vehicle must be left outside in an exposed area during the fires, owners can minimize or eliminate the threat of paint damage by carefully washing and then thoroughly drying their vehicles each day until the ash threat subsides.

Once the fires subside, owners should give each vehicle a comprehensive cleaning, first washing away any remaining ash residue with a product specifically designed for autos.

People who refuse a mandatory evacuation order should be told that they will not necessarily be put at the top of the priority list for a rescue; that they will be charged a minimum of $50,000 if one is needed; and that they could be looking at criminal charges if a firefighter is killed or seriously injured in a rescue operation.

Come on, California. I know that you are the state of selfish indulgence, but you are now bankrupt so some of your habits are going to have to change.

LAT fire maps are woefully inadequate. Just because you can zoom in to see increasing levels of generic information doesn’t make it useful or "interactive." Maybe you could throw in a legend from time to time? With all the great resources, programers and artists available to you it’s pretty sad. Oh, I forgot...all those folks have been laid off or left. My bad.

We have already lost two heroic firefighters. We don't need to lose anymore rescuing stupid people. If people refuse to evacuate, then call for help later, they have signed their own death warrant. The firefighters are battling these fires near the homes of people who followed the rules and heeded the mandatory evacuation. Why should these firefighters risk their lives and go in to areas surrounded by 100 feet walls of flames, because five idiots didn't want to evacuate? Sorry, but the lives of our firefighters are more important than the lives of five people who refused to heed the mandatory evacuation.

@Beau:

The description of the map clearly states: "For a legend, click on the lower left-hand link on the map."

If you click the Google link, it takes you to an expanded version of Google Maps with an extensive key and more features.

Well I guess you have to rescue the self-absorbed infantile people who say 'No!' when the adults tell them to evacuate, but they should definitely be fully charged for the extra work that should not have been needed.

Why aren't people preparing their own homes with fire retardant that will last once sprayed on with a regular garden hose for hours, it's at ,http://www.firegel.com/.

Insurance co. are the only private people who do this, is that nuts or what, get with it, do this please and save your house.

The police cry wolf alot so people don't always heed their advice, so this is why people don't evacuate.

I agree with Chris. They were asked to leave. If they need to be rescued, they can pay for it.

Refused to leave and now they expect others to risk their lives rescuing them?? Put them at the bottom of the "to-do" list. If rescuers have the time and resources (yeah, right) then they can attempt a rescue, but those folks need to foot the ENTIRE bill. These are the kind of people who, if they ARE rescued, will turn around and file lawsuits against anyone they think they can wring some money out of. Watch for it, folks.

when people are told to Evacuate there is nothing worth more than your life, those thing are just that, things , but if anyone is stupid enough to stay please don't waste the time or energy on them there are others trying to get out they know that their lives are more important

The people who refuse mandatory evac orders and are then caught by the fire should not be rescued. And I disagree with the idea that, no matter what, an effort must be made to save them. IF an opportunity presents itself with very low risk, fine.

Comment(s) have been made that an effort must be made to save human lives no matter what; but what about the lives of the sheriffs, firemen, and pilots who would be put at risk because these people refused to act on common sense?

I think that if even one rescue person dies or is injured in helping these people, they should be criminally charged. Not sure what law would fit (negligent homicide/manslaughter?)

Those who refuse to evacuate should be left to their own devices. They are making their own choices. They are refusing to participate in the community effort to save the most people.
It is interesting to me that, after they make the choice of refusing to leave, they then DEMAND help when their own flawed judgment proves unable to save them. They distrust the authorities until they need to trust them.

If you refuse to evacuate when ordered to do so, you should not expect extra resources, nor the lives of our emergency response personnel to come get you when you change your mind because the fire is in your backyard.

When law enforcement and fire officials come knocking on your door telling you to leave now, you leave! You don't say you'll stay, thank you very much and then change your mind 1 minutes later when the fire is raging down the hill towards your house and then expect a helicopter to come get you. It would be one thing if you were trying to leave as ordered and your escape route was suddenly blocked by the fire...at least you were trying to follow orders and leave...but you were just being selfish boneheads...

Our taxpayer money is better served using those resources trying to put out the fires.

 
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